19 August 2015

Should I Write in My Mother Language or in English?

If you are visiting AWISL.com, then there’s a possibility that you are an AWISL too: an author writing in a second language. I am an AWISL, and it’s tough. I’ve lost the count of how many times I’ve re-read and re-written the same sentences, how many times I’ve checked the words in the Oxford Dictionary, how many notepads I have filled, how many books on writing I have read. It used to take me thrice longer to write a novel than it takes native speakers. I spent sleepless nights working on my books, writing chunks of passages only to get mad and delete them later, because it just wasn’t working. I have edited my first book at least 30 (!) times, besides hiring an editor and two proofreaders. And my first book still sucked.

Did you get scared? Well, maybe you should, a bit. But you shouldn’t get discouraged. Because writing in a foreign language (and learning to write well) is possible. It just requires hard work and determination. But what profession doesn’t require that? If you want to be good, then you work hard and work a lot.

Image from commbridge-translations.com.

I’ll tell you why I decided to write in English. My mother language is Armenian, but I always knew I wouldn’t be writing in Armenian. Because it wouldn’t take me anywhere. Since I was a teen, I was writing in Russian (my second language). My first book was written in Russian. Then I did a research and learned about the Amazon and KDP. And I decided I needed to write in English. It took me a year to translate my book from Russian into English, and by the end of the year I had a book which was a horrible piece of writing. Of course I didn’t understand it then and published the book through Amazon. A few kind authors told me it was bad. I unpublished and worked on it for another 6 months. And it still sucked. But that was the best I could do at the moment. I am still not the best writer out there. And probably I will never be as good as native speakers. But when I look back, I can’t deny the progress. It’s astonishing. Which means that in a few years I will write much better.

So, let’s answer the question in the title of this post: should you write in your mother language or in English? It depends on your mother language. If it’s a popular language with millions of users, if the language speakers read e-books, and if Amazon KDP supports it (there’s a list of languages KDP supports. Armenian and Russian are not on the list), then you can give it a try. You can always self-publish your Spanish or Portuguese or Chinese novel and promote it to the people who speak these languages. And you can always translate your book into English, but be warned that translations are costly and you will have to find a good translator.

My advice is to start writing in English as soon as possible. English is a dominant language. Almost the whole world speaks or at least understands it. If you’re choosing the traditional publishing, then your mother language is a good choice. But with self-publishing it’s better to go with English.

Image from io9.com.

writing English second language